Czech drummer Dali Mraz has released a spectacular new album titled Level 25. Mraz delivers a set of masterful creative drumming performances accompanied by world class collaborators from various European countries and the USA.
Level 25 is a beautifully-packaged wonderland of jazz-rock fusion, progressive rock and classical influences. The masterfully-crafted instrumentation is classic fusion: drums, electric bass, keyboards and guitars, along with some outstanding vocals. Thankfully, there is no smooth jazz saxophone anywhere to be seen.
Musical influences range from Return to Forever, Joe Zawinul and Alan Holdsworth to funk and cinematic symphonic rock.
The list of musicians onLevel 25 is truly impressive: Scott Kinsey (Tribal Tech) on keyboards; Marius Pop on guitar; Anton Davidyants (Virgil Donati) on bass; Martin Miller on guitar; Federico Malaman on bass; Romain Labaye (Scott Henderson) on bass; Junior Braguinha (Virgil Donati) on bass; Lawrence Lina (Sideburn) on guitar; Mike Gotthard (Electric Shock) on guitar; Kolta Gergely (European Mantra) on bass; Veronika Stalder on vocals; Gyöngyösi Gábor on keyboards; Maria Nagyova (Ludove Mladistva) on vocals; Diana Minarovicova (Ludove Mladistva) on vocals; Terezia Jarosová (Ludove Mladistva) on vocals; ato Ivan on bass; Dano Soltis on vibraphone; Elis on vocals; Gergo Borlai on bass; and Valeriy Stepanov on keyboards.
What are your fondest musical memories?
I like to remember any creative process that I had. The moment, when you turn into a child and let your fantasies go. I experience every each creative process like these differently and that’s what is beautiful about the whole thing. Besides, all of this is written down in the music as a memory. When I listen to various moments from the recording process, I remember moods and even fragrances.
What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?
My music comes a lot from classical pieces. I choose elements, that I like and try to put them together in all ways. The most of the parts that I write are composed behind the piano. It is a royal instrument for me and that’s why the composed parts project into all instruments, even the drums.
How did your musical ideas evolve throughout the years from your debut album to your new recording?
In my case, there were two different worlds walking besides each its own line. The drums as an amusement and unlimited toy store, where I could play as many notes as I wanted and where I wanted. And a classical and film music, where I had to capture very subtle emotions and a basic line, almost inaudible. When I was 23 I started to fuse those worlds and finally put them together on Level 25.
You used a crowd funding tool to fund Level 25. How was the experience and how did you attract people to fund it?
I tried it because I was in need to finish the album to its end. I was putting a lot of finances to it and I had to ask people for help when I was short on resources. Thanks to those that had helped me I could finish the album. I was surprised with their interest and with the fact, that we had gained more than 100% of the needed money. It was an honor to me, that DRUMEO had supported me with another amount of money, which had helped a lot.
Of course I asked for lesser amount of money on Indiegogo, than I really needed, to produce the album, because I was worrying that I couldn’t reach it. But it happened and different people from different countries supported me. We have sent the album to more than 40 countries on all continents after releasing.
The album contains high-energy fusion featuring electric guitar and keyboards (which are ones we prefer). Are these the solo instruments you like the most?
As I mentioned before I spend a lot of times behind the piano/keyboard because of the possibilities which are almost endless.
Your album features quite a few excellent musicians from central Europe. Tell us a little about the guests and their background.
I knew some of them as we played together, some of them as friends and some of them became my friends on the internet before we met in person. I tried to put the list of guests together so the result is a really colorful fusion of cultures and to follow a specific concept of the album. We were tuning the details of the album for the whole three years and the number of letters and messages, that we have sent to each other is huge. I would like to record the next album in the studio.
How’s the fusion and progressive rock scene in the Czech Republic and nearby countries?
I guess it’s growing. Fusion doesn’t have tradition here and will take some time till people will start going to such concerts. However, the fact that my music comes out of classical stuff, which has tradition here, could make it easier for me.
Drum kits vary a lot. What drum set do you normally play and what’s your favorite configuration?
I like to use 22″ bassdrum + 2 rack toms + 2 floor toms + 1 gong drum + snare drum of course. If I play my own music, it is better to have a bigger set, to be able to express all the colors and orchestrations. Of course you can play it on a small kit too, but bigger kit means more colorful, in this case.
What is your advice to improve the hands technique?
Hands are a hard time. I tell everyone who asks me to set a workout exercise ideally for an hour and practice every day, just on a snare drum with a towel or a shirt on it.
What is your advice to improve the feet’s technique?
A lot of patience and a similar approach as with hands. I work with these problems a lot and I prepare a new app, which will have various workouts for drummers. It should be released at the end on June.
What is your advice to improve more speed on the drum kit?
If the player realizes that some of the exercises on the kit are almost identical with sports training, it is a key to mastering it. It is good to look for the inspiration out of music business in certain disciplines of the drums.
Who are your 10 favorite drummers and why?
Ronald Brunner – He can always surprise me.
Buddy Rich – He managed to fascinate the crowds and he made the drum set dominant in the big band.
Todd Sucherman – His precise play and the insight of all the notes, that he uses to play with bands, is incredible.
Thomas Pridgen – His directness.
Keith Carlock – His sound and flow.
Steve Gadd- His life journey and willingful playing.
Billy Cobham – His story and approach.
Gene Krupa – His ideas and motives.
Bernard “Pretty” Purdie – You gotta love him.
Virgil Donati – He was a big influence to me with his perception of music and approach to the instrument.
Mainstream media normally ignores progressive music. How do you promote your music?
The whole team and musicians who contribute on the music promotes it on our websites and the music slowly spreads into more fusion and mainly prog communities and that really makes us happy. We do what we love and we are gracious for every feedback. It’s not a mainstream thing, but it’s our happiness. That’s why we put so much energy to it.
If you could gather any additional musicians or musical groups to collaborate with, whom would that be?
There’s a whole bunch of musicians, that I would like to connect with and continue in collaborations. Currently we are working on a video with MohiniDey and I prepare two more projects, so I think that the guests will be a surprise.
Aside from the new album, do you have any additional upcoming projects to share with us?
Yes. I prepare three projects. Two musical and one educational. They will have premiere soon and we want to start to work with vocalists a push our music further again. We look forward to that a lot.
To purchase the album and learn more about Dali Mraz, go to www.dalimraz.com